22 February 2014

Liverpool v Swansea 02.23.14

8:30am ET, live in the US on NBC Sports

Last four head-to-head:
2-2 (a) 09.16.13
5-0 Liverpool (h) 02.17.13
0-0 (a) 11.25.12
1-3 Swansea (a; League Cup) 10.31.12

Last three matches:
Liverpool: 1-2 Arsenal (a); 3-2 Fulham (a); 5-1 Arsenal (h)
Swansea: 0-0 Napoli (h); 1-3 Everton (a); 1-1 Stoke (h)

Goalscorers (league):
Liverpool: Suarez 23; Sturridge 16; Gerrard 7; Sterling 6; Skrtel 4; Coutinho 3; Agger, Flanagan, Henderson, Moses, Sakho 1
Swansea: Bony 8; Dyer 5; Shelvey 4; Chico 3; B Davies, Michu 2; de Guzman, Hernandez, Lamah, Routledge 1

Referee: Mike "Beachball" Jones

Guess at a line-up:
Johnson Skrtel Agger Flanagan
Henderson Coutinho
Suarez Sturridge Sterling

Liverpool have a defense again! I think. I hope. This is still Liverpool and defense we're talking about.

But yes, Agger's back, Johnson back. Sakho and Lucas aren't far off, Enrique's had further complications, but those two's return to the starting XI should make a massive difference, especially if we get pre-injury Glen Johnson, not struggling-with-injury Glen Johnson.

And, as usual, those will probably be the only chances to Liverpool's XI. Henderson should reclaim his place from Allen after the FA Cup loss, in midfield with Gerrard and Coutinho, and with Suarez, Sturridge, and Sterling in some alignment up front. And those forwards will most likely be rather cranky after being shut out at Arsenal.

Swansea haven't won away from home in the league since November 23, at Fulham, with four losses and three draws on their travels since. They've scored just nine goals away from home in 13 matches; only Palace, Cardiff, and Norwich have tallied fewer. Which fits into the narrative of their four previous matches against Liverpool. Last season, Swansea exposed Liverpool 1-3 in the League Cup meeting at the Britannia and stifled Liverpool 0-0 in the league. Earlier this season, Swansea dominated Liverpool, one of the best opposition performances against Rodgers' side this season, and would have won if not for Jonjo Shelvey's charity. But when Swansea came to Anfield last season, Swansea were throttled – utterly, utterly throttled – lucky to lose 0-5, even though, yes, they were almost wholly focused on their upcoming League Cup final.

Jonjo Shelvey, for better and worse, was the star of the previous meeting. Everything was so very Jonjo, for both Swansea and Liverpool, playing a key part in all four goals. All that was missing to make it a flawless Jonjo match was a red card. Of course, I'd rather he didn't play, despite his fondness for foolishness, as I'm always terrified of what former Liverpool players will do. So it also seems worth pointing out that David Ngog will be on the bench, his lone appearance for Swansea a substitute cameo in Laudrup's last match.

Michu looks doubtful to return from his extended ankle injury, as does Pozuelo, while Dyer and Hernandez are questionable after picking up knocks in the Europa League. Which means Swansea's XI will be something like Vorm; Rangel, Chico, Williams, Davies; Britton, Shelvey; Dyer, Hernandez, Routledge; Bony. If Hernandez is unavailable, Shelvey will play ahead of Britton and Cañas in midfield. If Dyer's unavailable, Lamah will probably start on the flank, or Hernandez with the aforementioned midfield.

Swansea were impressive against Napoli on Thursday, grinding out a 0-0 draw against Benitez's full-strength XI. But that's also Benitez in an away European match, happy to wear out and stifle the opposition on their ground, and win the tie on his own. Ideally, that performance will have drained Swansea, while Liverpool have had a week to recover since facing Arsenal. And that Europa League performance was Swansea in a nutshell: strong in possession, able to battle with almost any opponent, but all-too-blunt in from of goal. 69% possession, 21 shots, but zero goals.

Not only is Liverpool's home form superb, but Swansea's style of play should help Liverpool, allowing the away side a modicum of unthreatening possession before slicing them open through quick transitions. And this is very much a match that Liverpool need to win, not only to keep pace with the three sides ahead of them in the table, but to maintain the distance between the two sides chasing them for a Champions League place.

1 comment :

Anonymous said...

Looking at Tottenham that 30 GD spread doesn't help much if they gather more points...victory is vital.